Reconciling city and nature: new imaginaries… and financing models

In order to lead the transition towards cities that reconcile humans and non-humans, the living and the inert, nature and culture, do city decision-makers have the means to achieve their ambitions? The path towards systematic urban biodiversity, which we laid out on the A Side of this newsletter, will probably be built around two unsurpassable axes: powerful imaginaries to dream up and design it; and the means and the tools to build it. We take a look at the links which will help the two parts flourish.

(New) Utopias and (old) avatars of urban biodiversity

The city, like an island, is a utopia par excellence. It’s on a scale on which designers, architect, city planners, engineers and inventors of all kinds, can dream up and establish a perfectly coherent and functional harmonious whole. In a scene which science-fiction author Alain Damasio calls the “battle of the imaginary”, the mental conquest of representations of the city of tomorrow takes place from all sides. To (re)activate the imaginary of the city as an urban ecosystem, each nucleus, each system works dynamically for each other. Numerous avatars are conjured up, be they new or recycled, or more or less imaginary. Apart from concepts such as the garden city (which have a history linked to the decades of great urban utopias that straddle the past two centuries, and which recognize the city models in which they have been able to – and continue to – materialize), others remain attractive cocoons where the city may well be increasingly tempted to set up home…

La cité-jardin collaborative de Homborch en Belgique (Coloco)
A Asnières, la cité-jardin des Grésillons va être rénovée (Les Echos)
À Vienne, un quartier sous les auspices de la « Biotope City » (Green4cities)
Une utopie au cœur de Paris : la Concorde verte (Djao-Rakitine)
À Londres, le mythe du gratte-ciel, végétalisé (PBC Today)
L’écosystème-ville au cœur d’un réseau d’écosystèmes : Amsterdam et ses zones humides (Bloomberg CityLab)
L’anti-NIMBY : « Not in my bat’s yard », ou la ville-sanctuaire d’espèces protégées (Curbed)
Une vision synoptique de la ville : les pionniers britanniques du planning urbain au XIXème siècle (revue Cities)
Présentation de “la plus belle avenue du monde” (les Champs Élysées) en 2030 par Philippe Chiambaretta (Leonard – 30 minutes pour demain)

Investing sustainably in urban biodiversity

In order to transform cities into genuine urban ecosystems, one central question remains: that of investment. It could come from local public funding arrowed in this direction or private investors looking to create new long-term, sustainable services. In the UK, a fund which would finance green urban infrastructure has (timidly) been put on the agenda. However, the argument put forward is now a financial one – for the initial investment is substantial, but immense savings can be made on health expenditure in the medium-term. While the need for this type of infrastructure is well documented, and in major French and European cities environmental issues tend to find a “cultural majority” in public opinion, would the priority not be not to convertthis financial issue into a try? To overcome such barriers related to funding, some projects rely on citizen action and commitment. Thanks to collective intelligence and a bottom-up approach, they get around the financial question by drastically reducing their costs and getting locals involved. But what about the new skills that all this requires, and which must be injected on all the floors of the city’s factory? And what about the issues that also affect – and no less critically – urban areas in developing countries…

‘Spending £5.5bn To Expand Access To Green Space Would Reap £200bn In Benefits, Say Experts’ (Living Architecture Monitor)
Trees as infrastructure (EIT Climate–KIC, projet de l’Union européenne)
Actions, indicators, and outputs in urban biodiversity plans: A multinational analysis of city practice (article de recherche, collectif)
Le diagnostic environnemental, « indispensable dans tous les projets urbains » (Batiactu)
Une « politique de l’arbre » en Seine-Saint-Denis (L’Echo d’Ile-de-France)
Fast-growing mini-forests spring up in Europe to aid climate (The Guardian)
Biodiversity post-COVID 19: Approaches and frameworks for conservation need to be revamped (Devdiscourse)

Bonus round: back to the past… of the future of the city-ecosystem

The concept of ​​a city taking advantage of its natural ecosystems is not (really) new. To help design and implement this, we often evoke the notion of “ecosystem services”. These group together the services that the presence of natural ecosystems in a given environment can render precisely to this environment. The concept was forged in the 1970s, and was adapted to the urban landscape just before the year 2000. This was in particularly thanks to a short review written by Per Bolund and Sven Hunhammar, two Swedish ecologists who used Stockholm as a case study – which is often an enlightening city. The services in question? Air filtration, micro-climate regulation, noise reduction, rainwater drainage, sewage treatment, and cultural and recreational values. This nine-page article of explanations and case studies is an absolute must-read.

Ecosystem services in urban areas (Revue Ecological Economics, pdf)

What do we do?

The VINCI Group created Leonard to tackle the challenges posed by the transformation of regions and lifestyles. Our goal is to unite a community of key stakeholders in order to build the city of the future together.